Smashing!: Luol Deng and Great Britain at the Olympics

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source: NBA.com

Ever since the U.S. grabbed the spotlight and all the medals with the Dream Team in 1992, every country has been jerking the curtain trying to knock off the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball team, or at least lose by less than 30 points. Who are these international stars who are in their respective countries Dream Team, Equipe de reve, equipo de suenos, or 夢之隊?

One of the nations looking to dethrone the U.S. is the host nation Great Britain, especially their star player Luol Deng who is looking to give the U.S. a good thrashing and win gold at home.

Great Bitain is the birthplace of many sports such as cricket, rugby, and football (soccer), but basketball has never been the Brits’ strong suit. The last time the British national team competed in the Olympics was in 1948 in London where they lost all five of their games. The team disbanded shortly after, and the three nations composing Great Britain (Wales, Scotland, and England) created their own squads.

Shortly after the Olympic Committee selected London to host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in 2005, the Great Britain side reformed. They proved themselves as a formidable squad in European basketball competitions. Much of Great Britain’s success can be attributed to their jolly good star Luol Deng.

Born in what is now South Sudan, Deng and his family moved to Egypt to escape the Second Sudanese Civil War. The family eventually moved to London, England while Deng was still a child.  He showed so much amazing basketball talent that he represented England in youth competitions. He became a naturalized British citizen in 2006 and was called up to the senior squad shortly after. Deng eventually moved to the United States to harness his basketball talents in high school and college. LeBron James was the only person who overshadowed Deng’s high school basketball career in 2003. After high school, he attended Duke and played in the Final Four in his freshmen year.

After one year at Duke, Deng entered the NBA Draft and was selected seventh overall by the Phoenix Suns, but was immediately traded to the Chicago Bulls. Deng proved his talent in Chicago by making it to the NBA All-Rookie First Team, and helping secure Chicago’s first playoff berth in seven years. Despite his rookie success, Deng suffered a wrist injury late in his first season. This was the start of many injuries, but was also the start of an impressive NBA career.

Despite tearing a wrist ligament early last season, Deng made his first All-Star Game appearance as a reserve alongside Bulls teammate Derrick Rose. He soon became a human highlight reel with impressive performances against the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, and Boston Celtics.

After the end of the Bulls postseason, Deng decided to postpone wrist surgery in order to represent Great Britain in the Olympics this summer in his hometown of London. Deng is the only player in the national team to have played in the NBA last season. Fellow national teammate Robert Archibald played in the NBA for two seasons from 2002-2004, and Joel Freeland recently signed a deal with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Deng could miss most of the next NBA season if he undergoes surgery late in the summer. With Derrick Rose rehabilitating a torn ACL, and Deng’s imminent absence, the Bulls lack good offensive players. Rose and Deng could return before or during the postseason, if the Bulls can make it to the postseason.

 

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